Chloe Edwards, of the Government Records Section, brings us this post in an ongoing series chronicling the construction of the Charlotte Capers Archives and History Building. Many thanks to Ms. Edwards for her research.
Photograph of the Capers Building in 1971. Information and Education Division, Series 1349, Box 5562. (MDAH)
Currently the home of MDAH’s Historic Preservation Division, the Charlotte Capers Archives and History Building was the department’s first purpose-built home. MDAH was long overdue for a building of its own after nearly forty years in the State Capitol basement (1903-1940) and a further twenty-three years in the north wing of the War Memorial Building. The department’s quarters at the War Memorial were cramped (its search room was a scant twenty-four square feet), which slowed collecting efforts. Perhaps more seriously, there was no way to control the temperature or humidity in records storage areas, resulting in inevitable damage to the records. Thus, in 1963, with the restoration of the Old Capitol and installation of the State Historical Museum within it complete, MDAH Director Charlotte Capers and Dr. R.A. McLemore (then president of the Department’s Board of Trustees) began campaigning for the funds to build a new home for the archives.
Series 1258: Charlotte Capers Building Files, 1928-1992. Box 4899.
Subject file: Archives and History Building, 1966-1970
Subject file: Archives and History Building, 1971 (dedication year)
A Building Survey for a New Archives Building, for the Board of Trustees, Department of Archives and History, prepared by William D. Morrison, Jr., 1966
Tauches, Karen. “The Fate of History: The Old Archives Building is Under Review.” Burnaway, published July 22, 2011. Accessed April 3, 2014 at http://burnaway.org/the-fate-of-history-the-old-archives-building-is-under-review/
“Map of beautiful Biloxi, Mississippi.” Call number: MA/2003.0062 (b) MDAH
A large group of maps was recently digitized and linked to the MDAH online catalog. There are more maps to come in additional blog posts. Click the title to view the map or click “Link to the catalog” to view its catalog record.
The life of Medgar Evers is synonymous with the civil rights struggle and his strong leadership in the movement. This series, written by Dorian Randall, will explore his life, work, and legacy using related collections at MDAH. This is the final post of the series.
Travel was an important part of Medgar Evers’ duties as NAACP field secretary.
This matchbook from Philadelphia, PA and money clip from Minnesota were found in the desk drawer in Evers’ NAACP office and could have been picked up on his travels. Accession number: 2004.21.10 and 2004.21.3a. (Museum Division Collection)
Evers traveled around the state to increase membership at local branches and across the country to give speeches at meetings and conferences. In June 1956, Evers attended the NAACP’s forty-seventh annual meeting in San Francisco, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered an address championing direct action.1 In May1959, Evers spoke at the Los Angeles NAACP branch, and in September of that same year he traveled to Panama City, Florida to address the Florida State Conference of NAACP Branches.2 He made various political connections on these trips, forming a close relationship with U.S. Congressman Charles C. Diggs, Jr.
February 17, 1956 letter to Charles C. Diggs regarding voter registration. Call number: Z/2231.000/S, box 2, folder 4 (Medgar Wiley and Myrlie Beasley Papers)
Diggs was a Michigan congressman and leader in African American voter registration. In 1956, Diggs and Evers wrote a series of letter to one another regarding intimidation and other illegal tactics that prevented voter registration for black Mississippians. Evers even introduced Diggs at a celebration for the third anniversary of the Brown ruling held at the Masonic Temple in Jackson.3
Evers and author James Baldwin. Call number: Z.2231.4.009 (Medgar Wiley and Myrlie Beasley Papers)
Evers also connected with those in arts and entertainment. He met award-winning author James Baldwin of Harlem when Baldwin traveled to Jackson in 1962 in support of James Meredith, who had just enrolled at the University of Mississippi. “He had the calm of someone who knows they’re going to die before their time—like Martin Luther King,” Baldwin said of Evers.4 Baldwin accompanied Evers on a trip investigating a murder in rural Mississippi and the two men developed a close friendship. By then Baldwin was already an outspoken civil rights activist. His play Blues for Mister Charlie, which he began writing before Evers’ death in 1963, was based on the murder of Emmett Till. Baldwin said that when Evers died he “resolved that nothing under heaven would prevent me from getting this play done.”5 Baldwin dedicated Blues to Evers’ family and memory.
1 Michael V. Williams, Medgar Evers: Mississippi Martyr (Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2011), 132. 2 Myrlie Evers-Williams and Manning Marable, eds., The Autobiography of Medgar Evers: A Hero’s Life and Legacy revealed Through His Writings, Letters, and Speeches (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 2005), 140, 158. 3 Evers-Williams, The Autobiography of Medgar Evers, 72. 4 W.J. Weatherby, James Baldwin: Artist on Fire (New York: Donald I. Fine, Inc., 1989), 3. 5 Weatherby, James Baldwin, 237.
The life of Medgar Evers is synonymous with the civil rights struggle and his strong leadership in the movement. This series, written by Dorian Randall, will explore his life, work, and legacy using related collections at MDAH.
In the 1960s Mississippi segregationists maintained a firm grip on social, political, and economic power. Evers intended to practice his rights as a U.S. citizen after being honorably discharged from the army by tackling the vote, which represented “the most tangible symbol of social and political equality.”1 In 1946 Evers, his brother Charles, and a group of friends decided to cast their ballot in the Democratic primary election where segregationist senator Theodore G. Bilbo sought re-election. Although they were allowed to register without incident, on election day a white mob prevented them from voting. This experience fueled Evers’ work in the NAACP as the organization worked to increase black voter registration. Other demonstrations against inequality followed as Evers grew into a civil rights leader.
Evers participated in, supported, and helped organize “direct action” demonstrations over the course of his NAACP career. From 1959 to 1960, Evers assisted his friend and NAACP member Dr. Gilbert Mason Sr., who attempted to desegregate Biloxi’s beaches in a series of “wade-ins.” After notifying Evers of his intent, Dr. Mason and a group of swimmers made several trips to Biloxi’s public beaches in 1959. An April 1960 visit proved crucial to the desegregation effort as the swimmers were attacked by angered whites. Evers later recounted the incident in a series of reports to the NAACP national office in New York:
As a follow-up to the report of April 24, 1960, in regard to the Biloxi, Gulfport, Pass Christian, and Gulf Coast demonstrations, I’m happy to report that members of our Gulfport and Pass Christian Branches participated on Sunday, April 24, 1960, in a movement to desegregate the beaches on the Gulf Coast…The quick action of the members of the Gulfport Branch, under the leadership of Dr. Felix H. Dunn, and Dr. Gilbert R. Mason, prompted an immediate inquiry from the Federal Bureau of Investigation…Dr. Mason and other members of the Negro citizenry of Biloxi would like for the N.A.A.C.P. to act in their behalf as a friend to the court, in the suit to open the beaches to all.2
Desegregating beaches wasn’t Evers’ only concern.
He also believed in the power of the youth. The national NAACP leadership did not fully support direct action tactics, but the youth pressed for more demonstrations. Evers had earned the respect of black youth through his support of the Jackson Youth Council and Touglaoo Nine, the black students who integrated the whites-only Jackson Municipal Public Library in March of 1961. He provided the young activists “opportunities to play prominent roles in the overall struggle, and he sought their advice on important issues such as strategies and resistance measures.”3
This WLBT news clip depicts Evers investigating and negotiating the terms of release for black youth protesters held at the Mississippi State Fairgrounds in Jackson circa 1961. Call number: MP/1980.01, reel D18 LCN 872 (MDAH)
In 1963 Evers worked with Tougaloo College professor John Salter, whom he met at an NAACP dinner, to organize youth for a boycott of Capitol Street businesses.4 During the Woolworth’s sit-in on May 28, 1963, Evers contacted the national media and coordinated activities from his NAACP office. On June 1, he was even arrested for picketing in front of the Woolworth’s. Evers had risen as a strong leader and organizer who inspired youth such as Tom Beard to actively pursue their rights as natural born citizens.
Tom Beard was just eighteen years old when he participated in the Woolworth’s sit-in. He was inspired by Evers’ determination and looked to him as a father figure. For Beard, Evers was a man of action who was willing to say what he himself could not. Beard once stated that he “just appreciated him having the guts to start something at the time.”5
1 Michael Williams, Medgar Evers: Mississippi Martyr (Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2011), 38.
2 Myrlie Evers-Williams and Manning Marable, eds., The Autobiography of Medgar Evers: A Hero’s Life and Legacy Revealed Through His Writings, Letters, and Speeches (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 2005), 188-90.
3 Williams, Medgar Evers, 203.
4 M.J. O’Brien, We Shall Not Be Moved: The Jackson Woolworth’s Sit-In and the Movement It Inspired (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2013), 27.
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